Since December 2021, LivingYouth.org has been providing articles, videos, and podcasts specifically for the teenagers and young adults in God’s Church. The website is updated weekly, and often more frequently, to provide current and engaging content that aids the youth of the Church in seeing the world through a biblical lens. Think biblically has become the site’s motto, and the site’s contributors are committed to helping the Church’s young people do so in an increasingly unbiblical world.
To find out more about the goals of LivingYouth.org, we interviewed Mr. Wallace Smith and Mr. John Robinson for a behind-the-scenes look at the website’s flagship series, The Living Youth Podcast.
A Model of Biblical Thinking
If scientists create a pig that chews the cud, should we eat it? What’s so bad about getting a tattoo? What is the Council of Elders really like? Why shouldn’t we date “good people” outside the Church? Does Numbers 5 imply that the Bible is pro-abortion? And what do all of these questions have in common?
The answer to the last question is that they’re all topics Mr. Smith and Mr. Robinson tackle at LivingYouth.org on the Living Youth Podcast, which is also available on YouTube and Spotify. Each week, Mr. Smith and Mr. Robinson aim to record a conversational, in-depth, Bible-based discussion of something that affects the lives of teens and young adults in God’s Church today, whether it’s a question about Scripture, a current piece of news, or just something they wish they’d known when they were teens and young adults. These recordings are uploaded on Fridays as 30-minute- to hour-long episodes that encourage listeners to think biblically about their actions, their opinions, and about what is going on in the world.
“A podcast format is ideal for our overall goal,” says Mr. Smith, “which is to model how to think biblically about news, culture, and current events. We want to model for teens and young adults what it means to think biblically about our subjects and to discuss them with a pro-Bible mindset, and the conversational format seems really well suited to that. Also, we hope the dynamic of listening to two or more people discussing a topic provides an organic richness to our coverage. Mr. Robinson and I don’t think about things exactly the same way, even as we both hew to the biblical truth of a subject. So we each contribute different things that the other might not and approach our subjects from different directions sometimes. Hopefully that adds a helpful dimension to our discussions.”
Unique Benefits of Podcasting
Though not completely off-the-cuff, these podcasts are decidedly unscripted, and that’s by design. “Part of what we enjoy about the podcast is the conversational style,” says Mr. Smith. “It’s fun to just sit around a table and talk about things or explore topics in a format like this. While we do think about our topics ahead of time, there is also an organic nature to our conversations and the podcast that is very different from a carefully prepared presentation like a Bible Study—also, we don’t just cover Bible verses. We’ve had some very popular podcasts where we sit down with people and talk about what the Church is doing, like talking to Mr. Jonathan McNair about Living Education, and to him and Mr. Gerald Weston about the camp program. Also, we get to address things happening in the culture that just wouldn’t fit in a Bible study, but which still make for worthwhile topics to discuss.”
Using the Bible as a vantage point from which to assess the world, while not necessarily feeling obligated to turn to a certain number of scriptures, allows Mr. Smith and Mr. Robinson a helpful flexibility in their conversations. “Mr. Smith and I wanted to be able to discuss a wide range of topics,” says Mr. Robinson, “but more informally than you would in a Bible Study format. Our hope—and we did not take for granted that this would be a success—was that our friendship and experience would allow us to discuss various issues and that those discussions would be interesting to teens and young adults, while answering questions they may have. But within those discussions, we always want to view things through the lens of the Bible—not just give our opinion about how a given situation or question should be handled, but point back to the Bible, which has the right answers.”
The podcast can also serve to cut through the clutter and divisiveness of modern news media by commenting on significant events through God’s perspective, rather than man’s bias. “The weekly format helps us to be really responsive,” Mr. Smith adds. “When something happens in the news or the culture, from Will Smith’s ‘Oscars slap’ to the death of Queen Elizabeth, the ease and speed of creating a podcast makes it that much easier to illustrate for teens and young adults how the Bible should shape our thinking on such topics.”
Where You Like, When You Like
Podcasts are an increasingly popular form of media, particularly because of how easily accessible they are. “The flexibility is a unique benefit of the podcast format,” Mr. Robinson says. “Podcasting is mainstream, so you can take advantage of a number of platforms, such as YouTube and Spotify, that will distribute your recording to anyone who is subscribed to it.” Another advantage to the podcast is its versatility—whether you’re driving, relaxing at home on the Sabbath, or trying to get your mind away from the workout you’re doing, the Living Youth Podcast is a great choice. “Listeners can download and listen to the show whenever they have time, even during what is often referred to as ‘found time,’” says Mr. Robinson. “For example, while in the car or cleaning around the house. You can listen while doing something else that would have ordinarily been all you were doing, which is another great thing about the podcast format.”
“The audio-focused nature of the podcast makes it accessible, I think, in a way that video isn’t always,” agreed Mr. Smith. “You can listen to it while you’re driving or, in some jobs, working, just like many listen to radio talk-show hosts. I’ve listened to podcasts while mowing the lawn; that is a neat feature of audio-only items.”
An Exciting New Avenue
The podcast has the potential to help listeners understand how God’s way applies to every aspect of life. “Hearing ministers organically discuss a topic that matters to you as a teen or as a young adult, and getting to be a ‘fly on the wall,’ so to speak, as they do so, has a lot of potential to be helpful,” Mr. Smith explained. “We’re called to let Christ’s own mind be in us, and with the podcast we can actively try to model what that looks like when you think about the things that grab your attention, whether it’s a popular movie or a difficult verse in the Bible.”
It can sometimes be difficult to understand how the Bible’s ancient passages apply to modern situations, and the podcast can be a helpful tool in aiding that vital comprehension. “Our goal is to discuss topics ranging from current events to difficult scriptures, as well as general questions that the youth have,” Mr. Robinson explains, “and the podcast format allows us to do that. But more than that, remembering that young people naturally don’t have the experience that an older adult would, we want to make the Bible more approachable and interesting. It’s an intimidating book, and it takes some time to get a handle on its wide-ranging topics.”
Join the Conversation
That goal certainly seems to have been met for many listeners around the world. One in South Africa commented, “I just wanted to take the time to let you know how much help I have found in the podcasts of the LYP YouTube channel. They brought and continue to bring so much clarity concerning the world around me and the way I see things…. It shows me how deeply God can work with His ministers to make sure they bring the messages to different listeners.”
With God’s help, Mr. Smith and Mr. Robinson hope to continue bringing clarity to the young people of God’s Church—and to do that, they need to know what those young people are wondering about. To help with that, teens, young adults, and parents can email [email protected] with their questions about the Bible, what’s going on in the world, or just a topic they’d like to learn how to think biblically about. And if you haven’t already, access LivingYouth.org for podcasts, videos, and articles created specifically for the teens and young adults in God’s Church!